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Hands-on Gear Review
Black Diamond Impact Review
Cons: Hook buckles on shoulder straps accidentally come undone, basic style hinge can fail, expensive.
The Black Diamond Impact crash pad is a basic hinged-stye pad with some modern features. It can fulfill the needs of any level boulderer doing any type of bouldering with the exception of padding jagged rocky landing zones. For rocky landings we recommend the solid foam of a taco-style pad since hinges can bottom out on sharp protrusions. Check out the larger size, higher priced sibling of the Impact, the taco-style, Editors' Choice Award Winning Black Diamond Drop Zone or our Top Pick Mad Rock R3 for jagged, uneven landings. Both of those pads are also better for hauling a large or heavy load with their larger sizes and flap closures. Both of the Black Diamond pads have one of our testers favorite features, the center lift handle between the top of the shoulder straps that helps lift a heavily loaded pad.
The dimensions; 39" (3'3") wide x 45" (3'9") long x 4" thick, are about average, but the price tag is about 30% above average. Do the added features and quality still make it worth the higher price? It could be worth it if, you can afford it, need the functions of the hinge design, like the cool features and trust Black Diamond's proven quality and durability.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
All of the 2015 and newer model Black Diamond pads have redesigned, higher quality foam layering. This pad has a layer of closed-cell PE foam on top and a high-compression PU foam layer on the bottom. The new padding works well with a nice balance of soft and squishy for short on-your-back type falls, yet firm enough to handle high impact falls.
With so many new hinge designs this old style seems like a dying breed. The hinge on the Impact is the basic kind, simply a square cut notch in the center of the foam. The safer "angled-hinge" on the Metolius Session decreases the likelihood of the hinge failing due to a sharp rock or other object protruding up through the hinge from underneath. The upside to all hinged pads are that they fold open and close perfectly for transportation and storage and lay totally flat when opened. They also fold up squarely to make a flat surface. One of the only problems with the popular taco folding Drop Zone is that it folds up with a curve and can often be a bit awkward when carrying a heavy load on uneven terrain.
Packs gear about average for a non taco folding pad without a flap closure. The pads that have flaps obviously hold gear inside more securely. The two side straps and single bottom strap have low-profile metal hook buckles that tighten and release very smoothly and hold the gear in fairly well. Only very rarely, on rough terrain, when packed full of a heavy and bulky load would the load come out of the side. This can be avoided usually by packing the load more securely from the get-go and using an extra strap, or, just don't carry so much.
Hook buckles on the shoulder straps allow them to detach so they are less likely to be tripped on. The detachable straps can also be used to tie the pad onto a tree or other tie-off point. When attached and laying around in pad-mode they can often come undone easily and have to be reattached before taking off for a hike. This is a mere 10-second annoyance but adds up over time.
We actually taped ours shut on the identical straps on the Black Diamond Drop Zone for some bouldering areas where we never saw ourselves untying the straps. We just used the pad in a more normal configuration most of the time so, in the rare occasion we needed to untie the straps we would just have to un-tape them and re-tape them again.
The detachable straps can also be used to tie the pad onto a tree or other tie-off point.
The center lifting handle helps to aid in lifting a heavily loaded pad onto your back. It is one of those features you don't miss until you've used it and then you want it all the time. Since our testers have grown accustomed to using this key feature it is one of our favorite aspects of this pad and most pads that have it. Besides helping to lift a heavy load, the center lift handle is also very useful as a general carry handle as well.
This pad lacks one key feature, the shoulder strap chest connector strap. This is another element that mostly just helps with carrying heavier loads so if you don't carry heavy loads then it is not a big issue.
As with most Black Diamond products they are well made from quality materials so it is very durable for the most part. The metal hook buckles are the most long lasting of all the types we tested and most pads use the metal type for the straps now. Our tests are showing that the new improved layered foam padding is holding up very well but more long-term tests will be needed to confirm its overall durability.
This pad is great for someone who does not need a larger size pad but does want a quality product with handy features and really likes the flat folding benefits of the hinge design. It could also be good simply as an extra pad since this pad is just smaller than average size and weight, and folds up so well. The dual carry handles on the top side makes it very streamlined and easy to transport and carry. This would be a great pad to use in conjunction with a larger-sized pad and/or a few other small-to-medium size pads to cover larger landing zones for more intense bouldering, but not used by itself, since the dimensions are not large enough to catch both your butt and your head in a fall. Unless you're very short (under 5') then it's only big enough when used alone for either padding your head area or your butt area if you don't land on your feet in a fall. So, that said, this pad is not meant to be used by itself for extreme bouldering falls but is a great pad for average falls on your feet and to be used in conjunction with another pad or pads for bigger or harder on-your-back type falls.
This pad is only a good value if you particularly like all of its design elements and useful features. It is a bit expensive for a below average sized pad with no flap closure, shoulder strap connector strap or other features seen on a few of the other similar pads we tested but it does have the quality Black Diamond workmanship and materials. It could be an alright value if you really like it, otherwise check out our Best Buy award winners that are less expensive and could be the best pad to suit your specific needs; Metolius Session and the Mad Rock Mad Pad.
Our testers' favorite use for the Impact was as an extra pad since it so compact to carry on trails and has the dual handles on the top side. It is so easy to carry it feels like a big suitcase. For moderate to expert level boulderers a slightly larger sized pad is usually needed as a main pad. When carrying it in backpack-mode it hauls a load of gear fairly well but has no flap closure to help secure a load. The Impact does have the center lift handle to aid in lifting a heavy load which is very useful. The Black Diamond Drop Zone is our suggestion to check out for the most similar pad with a secure flap and also the same center handle.
The basic style hinge of the Impact can bottom out if an object protrudes into the hinge from underneath, so it is not good for padding sharp and jagged, rocky landing zones. Taco pads will always do better for padding rugged landings. If a hinged pad is used attentively then it is usually workable. Other than that, it works great for most landings and especially on flat landings. Like all hinged pads, it lays perfectly flat with no bending or curling up of the edges. The 4" of layered foam offers more than an adequate amount of cushioning.
This pad did not win any of our awards. Overall we felt the Impact was just a bit too small and also compromised by the basic hinge to be the only pad you own unless you are an entry level boulderer and not on a budget. For a 30% lower price the Metolius Session offers more useful features such as the flap closure and "angled-hinge" design and the only features it lacks that the Impact has are the useful center lift handle and rarely used detachable shoulder straps. If you like the trusted Black Diamond materials and construction, the compact hinge design and the features, then this could be a good pad for your specific needs.
— Chris Summit
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